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Wilfrid Laurier University Leaf
October 23, 2014
 
 
Canadian Excellence

Dorothy McKnight Award Remembers Dedicated Mother and Social Worker



In the mid-1960s, Dorothy McKnight did something that most women of her generation didn’t do: she left an unhappy marriage, quit her job as a grocery store cashier, moved from Woodstock to Waterloo with her four children and enrolled in university. She was determined to get more out of life and ensure her kids had the opportunity for the education she was now struggling to earn. A few years – and a lot of hard work and sacrifices – later, Dorothy received a BA in psychology and an MSW from Laurier (then Waterloo Lutheran University). She went on to have a successful career, working with abused children and spouses, troubled teens and isolated seniors, helping police officers and emergency workers suffering from exposure to trauma and volunteering with her church, the John Howard Society and the Ontario Association of Social Workers.

While her dedication to her four children and nine grandchildren were a priority throughout her life, Dorothy’s son, Scott Edmonds, said that receiving her MSW from Laurier was one of her proudest accomplishments. So when Dorothy passed away in 2003 and the family was looking for a way to honour her memory, setting up a scholarship seemed like the right thing to do. In lieu of flowers at the funeral, friends and family were asked to make donations to what became the Dorothy McKnight Award. They raised over $15,000 and with the help of Laurier’s Student Awards office, were able to receive a matching government contribution. The office also helped the family establish criteria for the award, the most important of which is being a single parent since Dorothy understood how challenging it was to raise a family alone while attending school.

Scott said that for the family, the importance of creating a memorial scholarship was summed up by Luke Fusco, the Dean of Social Work in 2003, who said that in creating this memorial scholarship Dorothy’s family wasn’t just helping one MSW student each year; they were helping that student begin a career that would touch many lives.

Bojena Kelmendi, the 2010 Dorothy McKnight Award recipient,  said that “as a single mother coming back to school after some years of being out of school, winning the award validated my belief that I made the right choice in terms of choosing social work as a career of my genuine passion and deep interest.”

To find out more about creating a scholarship fund in memory of a loved one, please contact Andrea Cliche, Development Officer, at 519-884-0710 ext. 2094 or acliche@wlu.ca.